IN DEPTH: The end of ‘Multicultural EU’ and the Rise of ‘EU of Nations’

By Vadim Trukhachev


With Merkel’s announcement years ago that ‘multiculturalism has failed’, and now Macron’s concession that the Schengen zone is too large – the general victory of Euroscepticism can be felt even in the core of Europhilia – J. Flores

Apr 29, 2019

By Vadim Trukhachev – May 1 marks the 15th anniversary of the largest enlargement of the European Union. On that day, 10 countries joined its ranks at once – mainly Central and Eastern Europe. Today it can be said that the EU enlargement had very big costs for the European Union, for these countries themselves, and for Russia-EU relations … This also applies to the economy, politics and mentality.

May 1, 2004 in Europe was considered a historic day. The European Union has replenished its ranks at the expense of 10 states at once – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus. By the end of 2007, all of them (except Cyprus, where the dispute between the local Greeks and Turks has not been settled yet) was included in the Schengen zone. In addition, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia joined the aforementioned eight of the former socialist countries, which, however, were not taken into the “Schengen”.

That day can be considered the beginning of a new history of Europe. From now on, most countries of the continent settled in the European Union. The newcomers themselves solemnly said goodbye to the socialist past, having entered (as it seemed then) into the club of developed countries. The EU itself has become a major economic and political center of power, ousting almost everyone from Central and Southeastern Europe and coming close to the border of Russia and other post-Soviet states.

15 years is a long time, and the consequences of the events of 2004 can already be assessed. It cannot be said that the then newcomers to the EU have nothing to boast, except for seats in the European Commission and the European Parliament. They were able to influence (albeit not very much, but still) on the decisions taken by the EU, where their national interests will be taken into account. In all of them, power turnover began to be more or less ensured, without causing severe upheavals.

Economic benefits are also evident. Poland, Romania and their ilk began to receive funds from the funds of the European Union, many programs were invented for new countries. Citizens of these countries began to travel to Western Europe for work, and Western European companies transferred part of their production to them. Incomes of citizens have grown, and even pulled up to the average for the EU (for example, in Poland, before being accepted into the EU, they accounted for 51% of the average for the European Union, now it is 70%).

The European Union (mainly its richest countries) received even more. He gained cheap labor, markets, companies were able to make part of the production in countries where people can pay less. All more or less significant decisions of the state of Eastern Europe must now be coordinated with Brussels, where the Germans, the French, the Dutch and their ilk still prevail in the EU bodies. So the political and economic development of the East of Europe has come to pass.

However, the further, the more it turns out that there is, if not a gulf, then at least a ditch between the “old” and “new” Europe. According to the data of 2017, no one has yet reached the EU average level of GDP at purchasing power parity (taken as 100%). The Czech Republic (89%) and Slovenia (85%), almost catching up with Spain (92%) and well ahead of Portugal (77%), look better than others. However, it is still infinitely far to neighboring Austria (127%) and Germany (124%).

The Czech Republic and Slovenia are countries that occupy a kind of intermediate position between Western Europe and the rest of the former socialist countries. They retained a significant part of the industrial potential, their major brands. Their citizens do not go abroad to work en masse – on the contrary, it’s hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians or Bosnians who work for them. Democracy in them, too, is quite settled.

But all is not well. Czech Republic and Slovenia are deprived of the right to maintain their peasants at the same level as France, Holland or Austria. A significant part of the banking sector and industry belongs to (or is managed by) German or Austrian companies and banks. Locomotives or household appliances do in them, but with computers or more technically advanced equipment, the situation is not so good. Western Europe does not need competitors.

Other countries could not save the lion’s share of the industry, except for assembly plants of foreign companies. Agriculture works, but it is difficult for Poles, Hungarians or Lithuanians to sell their products to the West of Europe. Fields overgrown with weeds, have become in many areas of the prose of life. Own large trademarks in these countries are almost gone. The Baltic States were bought up by the Swedes, the rest of the countries were mostly Germans.

If you take per capita GDP at purchasing power parity, then the situation is slightly better in Estonia (79%), Lithuania (78%) and Slovakia (76%). Next came Poland (70%), Hungary (68%) and Latvia (67%), even lower – Romania (63%) and Croatia (62%). Bulgaria, with its 49%, remains the poorest state of the European Union. Moreover, these figures were largely achieved at the expense of the incomes of millions of citizens of these states working in Western Europe. Inside these countries, the numbers are even lower.

As for the European Union itself, so poor states have become a kind of burden for it. They receive over 80% of all subsidies coming from Brussels. But there is still Greece, Portugal, Spain and the south of Italy, there are overseas departments of France, where things are not going well, either. There are, finally, many recipients of benefits within Germany, Holland or Sweden, and here it is necessary to pull the Bulgarians with Latvians. In general, the pleasure turns out quite expensive.

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In addition to socio-economic affairs, there are problems in the other. For example, the countries of the Visegrad Group (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic) refused to accept refugees under the EU quota, although they are obliged to do so according to the letter of European laws. The European Union is now suing them, but it cannot be decided by a single court. Moreover, all other former socialist countries also do not want to see migrants from the Middle East and Africa in their homes. Romania and Slovenia declared this as frankly as the “Visegrad people”.

April 25, President of France Emmanuel Macron threatened them with other “consequences”. According to him, it is necessary to reduce the number of participants of the Schengen zone, which has stopped working due to the fact that some states do not fulfill their obligations to protect the borders and receive migrants. Specifically, he did not name anyone, but it is not difficult to guess: it’s all about the same Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, and others like them.

Courts and a hint of squeezing these states out of the “Schengen” show that not only economies in Western and Eastern Europe are different. Problems with the reluctance to accept migrants result from the fact that all the former socialist countries are building emphasized national states, where there is no place for a large number of foreign cultural strangers. In Western Europe, by contrast, for decades promoted multiculturalism, which has become today one of the main problems of the continent.

When Eastern European countries joined the EU, they could see that there were large immigrant ghettos in Paris or Stockholm. They thought that this would not affect them, but it turned out that the European Union is not a poorhouse, but a club that plays by strict rules. The decision-making formula in the EU is such that even when united, 11 former socialist countries will not be able to block them. The coveted 55% of states and 65% of the population, allowing them to make final decisions in the EU, do not have them.

Problems are not limited to migration issues. Thus, in Poland and Hungary, the executive branch is trying to expand its powers, for which the EU threatens them with sanctions for violating the principle of separation of powers. In the Baltic countries, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia, the situation with the rights of national minorities is not the best (in Slovakia it is better, but also not brilliant). Everywhere there is an acute problem of corruption, which is much higher than in Western Europe.

It turns out that the European Union has accepted into its ranks states that do not correspond to its level either economically, politically or mentally. And these states themselves joined the club of powers living in a completely different era by completely different rules. And they have to spend money on them, but for their (quite fair in essence) reasons, they are not ready to take on all the obligations arising from EU membership. Yes, they can not fulfill them.

In foreign policy terms, the EU enlargement also added a headache to Brussels. More than others, Poland is annoying, now and then trying to settle historical accounts with Russia, then with Germany. The complexes connected with the Soviet past exist in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. In Romania, Hungary and Croatia, they dream of altering the borders and reuniting their fellow tribesmen in a single state. And all this in one way or another affects the EU, forcing Brussels to take into account the aspirations of these states.

Who knows to what extent the EU’s relations with Russia would be aggravated because of plans to promote the Eastern Partnership and increase its influence in the post-Soviet space if Poland and Lithuania were not part of the European Union. And so these states have their interests, their own commissioners, their deputies, who have like-minded people in Western Europe. And these like-minded people would not be so influential if they did not have support among the newcomers. And so they found it.

In addition, the Baltic countries, Poland and Romania (to a large extent Bulgaria and Croatia) in their foreign policy look more at the United States than at Germany and France. And in the case of clarifying relations with the Americans (and in the field of economics, this happens all the time), it is not at all the fact that they will defend the EU position. Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic are more independent of the Americans, but the overseas factor is also noticeable in their policies.

It turns out that in terms of foreign policy, EU novices did not bring him any tangible additional benefits. Say, poor Portugal plays the role of a “bridge” with Latin America and Africa, and here only the Czech Republic and Slovenia can act as such “bridges” with the post-Soviet space and the Balkans. What kind of “bridge” has turned out from Poland, Lithuania and Romania – we can observe, looking at the development of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.

Thus, apart from certain benefits, the great expansion of the EU to the east over 15 years brought a lot of costs. And for these states themselves, and for the European Union, and for international relations as a whole.


Vadim Trukhachev, Candidate of Historical Sciences, translated by and for FRN

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